The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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Michele Bender

July 31, 2010

Pizza races on hot days

JOHNSTOWN — Remember this time last year? Folks referred to it as “the summer that wasn’t.”

Most days, the mercury struggled to reach the low 70s. Only about five days saw 80 degrees.

I wrote a column sympathizing with backyard swimming pool owners. Cool summers bring only pool maintenance chores with no gratification.

Heat and humidity don’t bother me. I’ve long suspected that I was a lizard in a previous life. I could sprawl out on a rock and bask happily in the sunshine all day.

While this season has been challenging for me in other ways, I’ve been delighted with the hot weather.

We got our backyard pool in the mid-1980s. I excitedly shopped for towels and pool toys.

Retired gentlemen in our neighborhood supervised the installation, while the neighbors’ children charted progress through the fence.

Pool parties became a weekend staple, mixing relations, friends and neighbors.

At one of our first “beach parties,” a neighbor’s preschooler scurried up the ladder, walked out and crouched in the grass briefly, then scampered back into the water.

“Honey, what did you do?” asked her mom, incredulously – although what she’d done was pretty apparent.

“Mom,” the girl explained patiently, “you said, ‘Whatever you do, don't go in the pool!’ ”

When the grownups gathered for raucous volleyball games, the smallest tykes felt left out.

We placed the little ones on rafts to serve as floating “nets.”

The “nets” could participate, provided they didn’t fall off their rafts, and their rulings were final.

Hubby enjoyed barbecuing, but we felt uneasy grilling near the rambunctious children.

The solution? Pool ’n’ pizza days.

Pizza appeals to the young and old, presents no cooking hazard and is easy to clean up.

Neighbors almost always brought their cordless phones along to our deck. That gave us another idea for more grown-up foolishness, and we invented “pizza races.”

Three neighbors, all armed with order lists, dialed the big three pizza sources simultaneously. All three were located in the same area.

Then, we’d bet on which delivery would arrive first. Those who picked the winner split the pot.

Some adults are easily entertained.

Want to get the kids out of the pool quickly? Holler: “Pizza’s here!” Works every time.

This year, I’m reliving pool memories.

I’m also treasuring every minute of this toasty, roasty summer. I know we’ll be wishing for some 80-degree temperatures come January.

Michele Mikesic Bender is a Johnstown resident and a member of The Tribune-Democrat’s Reader Advisory Committee.

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